Whether you are planning a birthday, shower, or even wedding having a dessert bar your party is always a good idea – because desserts are fun and everyone likes something sweet. Here I am sharing all my best tips for planning and setting up a dessert table, as well as 10 outstanding recipes to include to create the Ultimate Dessert Bar for your next Party!
10 Recipes to Create the Ultimate Dessert Bar for Your Next Party
7 Tips for the Ultimate Dessert Bar:
Don’t make everything yourself
Unless you are a super host or the dessert bar is your one and only responsibility, don’t overwhelm yourself with thinking you need to hand make every single element yourself.
Delegate as many recipes as possible to other attendees, hire professional bakers, and include store-bought items.
Match the Party Color Theme
Color coordinate tablecloth, serving trays, jars, cake stands, and any background or decorations on the table as well as the desserts itself.You can also use colored cupcake liners, tinted candy melts (instead of chocolate coating), sprinkles etc. to color match.
Keep serving sizes small
As usually happens with buffets, most guests will want to sample as many items as possible. To avoid too many wasted leftovers, keep the desserts and serving sizes very small. Think brownie bites, mini cupcakes and the like.
Mini Matcha Baked Donuts – Credit: Rhian from rhiansrecipes.com
Create Height and Movement
What makes a dessert bar stand out is when they whole setup utilizes not only horizontal but also vertical space. A dessert table where all treats are at most 2 inches tall and are all laid out flat on the table might be delicious but would be rather boring to look at.Keep in mind that your dessert bar should not only be about pleasing the tastebuds but also visually appealing.
To create height, aim for at least 3 different tiers:
- The first tier can be level to the table
Here you can lay out cookies, hand pies, brownies on flat serving trays in a single layer
- Stacking + Elevated Cake or Dessert Stands
Stack up any not-too-sticky desserts in 3-4 layers for the easiest, quickest way to create height.
Also make use of cake stands or elevated dessert trays to display a centre piece layer cake, as well as cupcakes, mini donuts, etc. at this level
- Tall desserts + Elevation
You can create this third level of elevation with either taller cake stands, a tiered layer cake, or by using turned over crates, tins or boxes as pedestals for other serving vessels.
Think of cake pops or anything on a stick in tall vases, or tall glass jars filled with popcorn, candy or marshmallows.
- Wall Decoration
And if you are adding a banner, sign or other decoration on the wall in the background you have an easy fourth tier right there.
- The first tier can be level to the table
Include some DIY fun
Especially for events where your guests will stay for a longer amount of time (like weddings), adding a little DIY action is a great way to entertain both young and old. Here are some DIY dessert bar ideas:
- S’mores: Set up DIY S’mores ingredients including marshmallows, different flavoured chocolate squares, cookies or Graham crackers and wooden skewers. Provide candles or Sterno cans as a small heat source where everyone can roast their own S’mores marshmallows
- No-Bake Cheesecakes in a Jar: Set out trays of no-bake cheesecake jars (graham crust topped with sweetened cream cheese and whipped cream mixture) and an array of fresh fruit, sprinkles, nuts, lemon curd, chocolate sauce etc. that everyone can use to top the cheesecake jars to their heart’s desire.
DIY Cheesecake Dessert Bar – Credit: Kelly/Asideofsweet
Keep it simple
While there are many different ideas and recipes suggested in this post, don’t try to cram them into one dessert bar setup. You’ll end up stressed and overwhelmed, while your dessert table might end up looking crowded and unorganized.Instead, pick as few as 3-5 recipes (still delegate according to tip 1 and include some non-baked items from tip 7 below) and create symmetric arrangements where each treat is displayed in at least two different spots.
Not everything needs to be baked or handmade
Before sharing my most favorite dessert bar recipes with you, here are some ideas you don’t even need a recipe for:
- Candy Jars – fill large glass jars with color matching or simply everyone’s favorite candies
- Marshmallows – they come in many different colours too
- Chocolate Covered Pretzel Sticks – use colored candy melts and/or sprinkles
- Rice Crispy Treats – cut out shapes that match the theme or just press them into balls and attach to a lollipop stick
And now my 10 Ultimate Dessert Bar Recipes
Showstopper Layer Cake
While not absolutely necessary, I feel like nothing rounds out the a dessert bar setup like an eye-catching layer cake. I like a fairly symmetrical arrangement and having the cake centered (or at least center-ish) on a tall cake stand.Try this Easy Vanilla Raspberry Cake for a simple, delicious layer cake that doesn’t require a lot of decorating skills to look stunning.
Vanilla Raspberry Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting – Credit: Regina/Leelalicious
Easy Decorated Cookies
Decorating cookies with piped royal icing is definitely one of the more difficult and time-consuming ways to create a themed dessert. These would be great to hire out to a professional cookie decorator.But if you prefer the homemade route, here is a helpful tutorial for making Painted Sugar Cookies. You can use whatever cookie shape and color design to match your party’s theme.
Painted Royal Icing Sugar Cookies – Credit: Kelly/The Anthony Kitchen
Classic Chocolate Cupcakes
It’s always a good idea to include some classics that everyone knows and loves in your dessert bar. You could also make these Classic Chocolate Cupcakes as miniatures.
Classic Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting – Credit: Patty/ThePKPWay
- Elegant MacaronsTo me macarons are the epitome of dessert elegance – tender, fickle, with a sweet and smooth center. They can be colored any tone you like, either with food colouring paste or freeze-dried fruit powder.And if you need another dessert with â€˜height’ for your setup, you can easily display macarons on lollipop sticks.
Try this recipe for Vegan Macarons
Vegan Aquafaba Macarons with Chocolate Ganache – Credit: Lucy/Super Golden Bakes
Fun Flavoured Popcorn
You may think of buttery salted popcorn as only a movie treat. But there is so much more to popcorn.Take this chocolate coated Funfetti Popcorn for example. These have a birthday cake funfetti theme, but the sprinkles can be changed up to any color.
Funfetti Popcorn – Credit: Regina/Leelalicious
Mini Bundt Cakes
While classic bundt cakes may be more of an understated, every day kind of dessert, these adorable Mini Lemon Bundt Cakes are more than suitable for a fun dessert bar.
Lemon Mini Bundt Cakes with Icing and Berry Topping – Credit: Anne/Upstate Ramblings
Classic Brownies – Taken a Step Further
Chocolate iced brownies with Mozartkugel praline on topMozart Brownies
Donuts have long proven that they are not just a coffee shop dessert but also just as welcome at parties of any level of sophistication.
Just look at these! Don’t they just scream party food?You could also use any color candy wafer coating or a simple white icing with color coordinated sprinkles.
Mini Chocolate Covered Donut Stack – Credit: Natasha/Tashas Artisan Foods
While whole pies may be a holiday dessert staple, the mini hand pie version is much more suitable for a dessert bar.Small, contained individual portions that can also be baked with a popsicle stick attached. Display them in a vase as an easy way to create height on your dessert table.
Heart-Shaped Raspberry Lemon Mini Pies – Credit: Linda + Steve/Cook With Me Darling
Chocolate Covered Fruit
To provide at least a little balance include some fruity desserts in your lineup like these
Chocolate Covered Bananas
Chocolate covered bananas with toppings on popsicle sticks – Credit: Lisa/Downshiftology
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